Flathead Irrigation Project Irrigators:

A personal communication from Boone Cole to irrigators

Now that the Lake County District Court has rejected the attempt by two commissioners from each of the Mission and Jocko Valley Irrigation Districts who sued to keep irrigators from voting in the FJBC Referendum, you will be receiving your ballot in the mail from Lake County. Please read it over and fill it in carefully in the privacy of your own home, and mail it back in or take it to the courthouse by November 19. That’s the only way your votes will be counted. Make sure to cast your votes the way YOU want the Referendum to turn out.

Since this is a personal communication, I am going to urge you to vote “FOR” the FJBC Referendum ballot.

In my opinion, voting “FOR” the FJBC Referendum is the only way to protect your property rights in your land and water and the only way to achieve a lasting negotiated agreement on water rights. Here’s why.

This Referendum asks whether you want the FJBC to continue working as the united representative of fee land irrigators to secure your Ownership of a part of the irrigation water right, to Verify that you will get at least the same amount of irrigation water you have received in the past, and to make sure it is regulated by the State using the same law as in the rest of the State. If you want these things, Ownership, Verification, and Equal Participation, vote “FOR” the Referendum.

The opposing side, the Commissioners that sued to keep you from voting and their consultants, oppose these goals, and want you to give up on them. They want to impose the proposed Flathead Compact and Project Water Use Agreement (WUA) on irrigators. Here are the key parts of what those documents do.

First, the proposed Water Use Agreement and Compact, as they exist today, give ownership of the irrigation project water right to the Tribes. They only give irrigators limited permission to use a part of that water, probably less than you have used in the past. And they give the authority to control irrigation use and all other water uses on the Reservation to a politically appointed board. That Board would apply a “special” law, unique to the Flathead Reservation, which would apply to your fee land.

In short, the Compact and WUA give the irrigation water right to the Tribes, appear to reduce the amount irrigators might get for irrigation, and make all these uses subject to regulation by an unelected, politically appointed Board.

Is this a good idea? Obviously, not. This “deal” makes me fear for the future of our farms, ranches, and families.

Now that the District Court has ruled against them and you are able to vote on the FJBC Referendum, you can expect the “Fear and Smear” campaign they and their allies have been running will grow more loud, desperate and illogical. Please do not be fooled by their dire predictions and threats.

The majority of the FJBC commissioners are working to negotiate an agreement that addresses these problems.
–They want it to ensure irrigators own a property right in the irrigation water.

–They want to make sure it will be at least the same amount as irrigators have historically received.

–And they want it regulated like all other water uses in the State–by the State.

That’s why the FJBC is “FOR” Ownership, Verification, and Equal Participation.

In my personal opinion, this is an acceptable deal.

The FJBC has communicated this information to the Tribes in a letter proposing that we talk further. The FJBC is ready and willing. It is now up to the Tribes.

So, regarding the FJBC Referendum, you will have a clear choice. One side wants to scare and intimidate you into voting against the FJBC and giving up the chance to secure your rights in your land and water.

The FJBC side respects your rights and will work with you to protect them, preferably through negotiation.

So I urge you to vote “FOR” ownership of the irrigation water right, verification that it will remain at least as much in volume as it has historically been, and that it will be regulated by the State.

Cast your vote “FOR” the FJBC.

Respectfully,

Boone Cole, Jocko Valley Irrigation District Irrigator,Jocko Valley Irrigation District Commissioner

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